There’s plenty of stuff that’s been banned from Apple’s App Store for violating its guidelines against apps that contain anything “offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust, or in exceptionally poor taste.” Shaking a baby to death. A pantless Bill Clinton. Something just called “iBoobs.” And now Pepe, the once-innocuous stoner frog that was coopted by the alt-right during the last presidential campaign.
Pepe Scream, created by Spirit Realm Games, was recently rejected from the App Store. The reason: It contained Pepe, which Apple now deems offensive. In an interview with Vice’s Motherboard, the creators explained: “Why did we make a game about Pepe? We saw some memes featuring Pepe screaming ‘REEEEE’ and something just ‘clicked.’ We thought it was a silly and funny idea to just show off to our friends, nothing more, so we built it just for fun.”
They had a slightly different tone on the r/The_Donald subreddit, where one of the developers explained what had happened under a post entitled “TIL that ‘Pepe the Frog’ is considered ‘objectionable content’ by Apple, so we can’t publish our game. Thanks, Apple! Bunch of cucks.”
User MrSnrhms wrote:
My friend and I came up with the idea of combining shitposting with autistic screeching, so we made this just for fun. But when we tried to release to the App Store, we got hit with “Your app contains images and references of Pepe the Frog, which are considered objectionable content.”
This is pretty stupid, because we spent a ton of hours trying to get this to work on iOS and spent $99 on the developer license, and now we can’t even post it to the App Store.
tl;dr: Apple is full of cucks, Android for lyfe
Curious, I downloaded the game onto an Android phone. Pepe Scream is basically a version of Flappy Bird with a bunch of in-jokes for those deeply enmeshed in 4chan/meme culture. You collect chicken tenders, or “tendies.” You can buy various “rare Pepes,” like “Fedora Pepe” and “Neckbeard Pepe.” When you die you get messages like “rekt” or “u dead lol.” And, oh, yeah, you also have to control Pepe by screaming into your phone’s mic. Like a lot of stuff surrounding meme culture, it’s the kind of thing you’d be embarrassed to do in public.
Is it offensive? There’s no doubt that Pepe is now mostly associated with of a group of online users known for spouting a particularly nasty form of ethno-nationalism. The Anti-Defamation League considers Pepe a hate symbol if used within certain contexts. Pepe’s original creator, Matt Furie, decided to kill his creation in protest. And Spirit Realm Games has released several other apps on Android that definitely seem try to be capitalizing on the alt-right’s enthusiasm for all things Trump.
Ultimately, Apple’s controls the App Store. Despite some Reddit threads claiming violations of First Amendment rights, Apple is under no obligation to carry any app it doesn’t want to. Apple decides what gets in or what stays out — and, for now, Pepe is out.